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Meditations

The Readings for Good Friday


The following two readings, known as the "Hymn of Jesus" and the "Mystic Cross" are taken from the Acts of John. The Acts of John date from the early second century and were historically preserved in monastic collections until modern times. These passages comprise sections 96 to 102 of the text.


 

The Hymn of the Lord
Which He Sang in Secret
to the Holy Apostles, His Disciples


XCVI

Now before he was taken by the lawless Jews,
who also were governed by the lawless serpent,
he gathered all of us together and said:
Before I am delivered up unto them let us sing an hymn to the Father,
and so go forth to that which lieth before us.

He bade us therefore make as it were a ring,
holding one another's hands,
and himself standing in the midst he said:
Answer Amen unto me.
He began, then, to sing an hymn and to say:

Glory be to thee, Father.

And we, going about in a ring, answered him:
Amen.

Glory be to thee, Word:
Glory be to thee, Grace.
Amen.

Glory be to thee, Spirit:
Glory be to thee, Holy One:
Glory be to thy glory.
Amen.

We praise thee, O Father;
we give thanks to thee, O Light,
wherein darkness dwelleth not.
Amen.

Now whereas we give thanks, I say:

I would be saved, and I would save.
Amen.
I would be loosed, and I would loose.
Amen.
I would be wounded, and I would wound.
Amen.
I would be born, and I would bear.
Amen.
I would eat, and I would be eaten.
Amen.
I would hear, and I would be heard.
Amen.
I would be thought, being wholly thought.
Amen.
I would be washed, and I would wash.
Amen.
Grace danceth. I would pipe; dance ye all.
Amen.
I would mourn: lament ye all.
Amen.

The number Eight (Ogdoad) singeth praise with us.
Amen.
The number Twelve danceth on high.
Amen.
The Whole on high hath part in our dancing.
Amen.
Whoso danceth not, knoweth not what cometh to pass.
Amen.

I would flee, and I would stay.
Amen.
I would adorn, and I would be adorned.
Amen.
I would be united, and I would unite.
Amen.
A house I have not, and I have houses.
Amen.
A place I have not, and I have places.
Amen.
A temple I have not, and I have temples.
Amen.

A lamp am I to thee that beholdest me.
Amen.
A mirror am I to thee that perceivest me.
Amen.
A door am I to thee that knockest at me.
Amen.
A way am I to thee a wayfarer. .

Now answer thou unto my dancing.
Behold thyself in me who speak,
and seeing what I do,
keep silence about my mysteries.

Thou that dancest, perceive what I do,
for thine is this passion of the manhood, which I am about to suffer.
For thou couldest not at all have understood what thou sufferest
if I had not been sent unto thee, as the word of the Father.
Thou that sawest what I suffer sawest me as suffering,
and seeing it thou didst not abide but wert wholly moved,
moved to make wise.
Thou hast me as a bed, rest upon me.

Who I am, thou shalt know when I depart.
What now I am seen to be, that I am not.
Thou shalt see when thou comest.

If thou hadst known how to suffer,
thou wouldest have been able not to suffer.
Learn thou to suffer, and thou shalt be able not to suffer.

What thou knowest not, I myself will teach thee.
Thy God am I, not the God of the traitor.
I would keep tune with holy souls.
In me know thou the word of wisdom.

Again with me say thou:

Glory be to thee, Father;
Glory to thee, Word;
Glory to thee, Holy Spirit.

And if thou wouldst know concerning me, what I was,
know that with a word did I deceive all things
and I was no whit deceived.
I have leaped:
but do thou understand the whole,
and having understood it, say:

Glory be to thee, Father.

Amen.

 


The Mystic Cross


XCVII

Thus, my beloved, having danced with us the Lord went forth. And we as men gone astray or dazed with sleep fled this way and that. I, then, when I saw him suffer, did not even abide by his suffering, but fled unto the Mount of Olives, weeping at that which had befallen. And when he was crucified on the Friday, at the sixth hour of the day, darkness came upon all the earth. And my Lord standing in the midst of the cave and enlightening it, said: John, unto the multitude below in Jerusalem I am being crucified and pierced with lances and reeds, and gall and vinegar is given me to drink. But unto thee I speak, and what I speak hear thou. I put it into thy mind to come up into this mountain, that thou mightest hear those things which it behoveth a disciple to learn from his teacher and a man from his God.


XCVIII

And having thus spoken, he showed me a cross of light fixed, and about the cross a great multitude, not having one form: and in it (the cross) was one form and one likeness. And the Lord himself I beheld above the cross, not having any shape, but only a voice: and a voice not such as was familiar to us, but one sweet and kind and truly of God, saying unto me: John, it is needful that one should hear these things from me, for I have need of one that will hear. This cross of light is sometimes called the word by me for your sakes, sometimes mind, sometimes Jesus, sometimes Christ, sometimes door, sometimes a way, sometimes bread, sometimes seed, sometimes resurrection, sometimes Son, sometimes Father, sometimes Spirit, sometimes life, sometimes truth, sometimes faith, sometimes grace. And by these names it is called as toward men: but that which it is in truth, as conceived of in itself and as spoken of unto you, it is the marking-off of all things, and the firm uplifting of things fixed out of things unstable, and the harmony of wisdom, and indeed wisdom in harmony. There are of the right hand and the left, powers also, authorities, lordships and demons, workings, threatenings, wraths, devils, Satan, and the lower root whence the nature of the things that come into being proceeded.

 

XCIX

This cross, then, is that which joined all things unto itself by a word, and separate off the things that are from those that are below, and then also, being one, streamed forth into all things, making all into one. But this is not the cross of wood which thou wilt see when thou goest down hence: neither am I he that is on the cross, whom now thou seest not, but only hearest a voice. I was reckoned to be that which I am not, not being what I was unto many others: but they will call me (say of me) something else which is vile and not worthy of me. As, then, the place of rest is neither seen nor spoken of, much more shall I, the Lord thereof, be neither seen nor spoken of.

 

C

Now the uniform crowd around the Cross is the Lower Nature, but those whom thou seest in the Cross, if they have not also one form (it is because) every Limb of the One who came down has not yet been gathered together. But as soon as the Higher Nature and Race, coming to me in obedience to my Voice, is taken up, then what does not hear me now will become as thou art, and shall no longer be what it is now, but over them even as I am now. For until thou callest thyself mine, I am not that which I am, but if thou hearest me attentively, thou too shalt be as I am, while I shall be what I was, as soon as I have beside myself thee as I am. For from this thou art.


CI

Nothing, therefore, of the things which they will say of me have I suffered: nay, that suffering also which I showed unto thee and the rest in the dance, I will that it be called a mystery. For what thou art, thou seest, for I showed it thee; but what I am I alone know, and no man else. Suffer me then to keep that which is mine, and that which is thine behold thou through me, and behold me in truth, that I am, not what I said, but what thou art able to know, because thou art akin thereto. Thou hearest that I suffered, yet did I not suffer; that I suffered not, yet did I suffer; that I was pierced, yet I was not smitten; hanged, and I was not hanged; that blood flowed from me, and it flowed not; and, in a word, what they say of me, that befell me not, but what they say not, that did I suffer. Now what those things are I signify unto thee, for I know that thou wilt understand. Perceive thou therefore in me the rest of the Word (Logos), the piercing of the Word, the blood of the Word, the wound of the Word, the hanging up of the Word, the suffering of the Word, the nailing (fixing) of the Word, the death of the Word. And so speak I, separating off the manhood. Perceive thou therefore in the first place of the Word; then shalt thou perceive the Lord, and in the third place the man, and what he hath suffered.

 

CII

When he had spoken unto me these things, and others which I know not how to say as he would have me, he was taken up, no one of the multitudes having beheld him. And when I went down I laughed them all to scorn, inasmuch as he had told me the things which they have said concerning him; holding fast this one thing in myself, that the Lord contrived all things symbolically and by a dispensation toward men, for their conversion and salvation.

 




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